Chocolate Cake and Other Memories

Today at my grandson’s first birthday party, I saw my ex-husband for the first time in 11 years. I also ate a piece of chocolate cake made from a recipe that’s been in my family for more than 40 years. Both brought up a lot of emotions, but thankfully I didn’t eat the cake because I was in the presence of Ex.
Even though I had a knot the size of Fort Knox in my stomach both in anticipation of seeing Ex and actually seeing Ex, eating the cake was something I’d planned, and along with a little fruit and a small portion of bean burger from Claire’s plate, it was all I ate this afternoon.

Yet it was –

dare I say –


Ex (husband #3 from 1990-1994) was at the party because he and my children recently reconnected. I’m cool with that. I supported it, actually. However, he and I will probably never be real chummy again and I’m learning to be OK with that. My kids are happy and that’s all that matters to me. Besides, it’s complicated and not a ball I want to add to the juggle I’ve got going right now with my knees and shoulders and book and what have you.

Bright spot: Ex’s wife is awesome. She was my friend before she was Ex’s wife. I introduced them, actually, and convinced him to ask her out. Seeing her today was a really nice blast from the past. She looks and sounds the same as ever, and it was like it was 11 days and not 11 years since I talked to her. She personifies all that was good between Ex and me while at the same time represents all the things we wanted in each other and couldn’t have.

OK, so back to the chocolate cake. Growing up, I blew out every year’s birthday candles on that cake, and it was the Baby Jesus cake of choice every Christmas (my daughters always insisted on throwing Baby Jesus a birthday party). It’s still the featured cake at my niece’s and nephews’ birthdays, and now my grandchildren’s.

It’s the frosting that sets it apart. While it tastes good in tandem with the cake, I always ate it separate from the cake, like the cake and frosting were individual foods. Today I ate a small sliver of cake, consuming both the frosting and cake together. But it just wasn’t the same. Sort of like Ex and me. We’re both good people. We are just best when enjoyed separately.

What is it about particular foods that anchor us? Remind us? Tether us to a memory? That chocolate cake kept me somewhat sane today. Just seeing it in the pan reminded me of my 30 years before Ex. The times when I was a little kid like Luca and Claire and enjoyed the hell out of my birthday. I didn’t even have to eat it to feel its significance.

Thanks for making it through this complicated maze of thoughts. I hope some of it made sense. I just needed this place to vent and start sorting out this newest layer of life stuff. I suspect we all need a jumping off place like that. I’m just glad I had a nice sliver of comforting chocolate cake to put it all in perspective.

Luca crushing his non-chocolate cake cupcake. Happy b-day, Luca Man!

Claire crushing carrots with reduced-fat ranch dip. That girl ate at least 25 carrots today.

6 thoughts on “Chocolate Cake and Other Memories

  1. What an intense day – the highs of the grandkids (Happy Birthday, Luca!) to the eeks of seeing the EX, to the ooohs of the beloved cake…looks like you pulled through it like the champ that you are!

  2. Eleven years is a long time – I can well imagine there must have been a lot of feelings turned up/over/around.

    In the end – were you glad to see them and not have it be something hanging over your head – or would you have rather gone the rest of your life with no contact?

    I can understand your girls lived with him (with you) for a few years and had a relationship – but it does seem a triffle odd to include him in birthday party.

    it seems like it might have been kinder to invite them over for dinner when you weren't around. . .

  3. So much in one day! I think it takes such maturity and loving honesty to face all those past relationships and deal with it with such graciousness and civility.

    Food is sooo tied in with our memories! Lemon Meringue Pie for me brings back floods of memories of our lemon tree, and Mom making the pies, and homemade lemonade.

    Sharp cheddar cheese and apple pie makes me smile and think of my StepDad, who raised us, and would never eat his apple pie without the slice of cheese.

    You have such lovely memories tied up with that Chocoate cake… that's nice I think.

    And if it wouldn't bother you to share a family secret recipe, I would love to have that frosting recipe!


  4. They say emotional eating is a bad thing, and I suppose it's true. I just happen to think it's impossible not to have emotional connections to food. How could we not? I think it's nice that certain foods can bring back good memories (as long as we don't rely on the food to actually make us happy – that is) The cake sounds yummy. Glad you were able to enjoy the day despite a curve ball.

    PS – your grandkids are adorable!!!

  5. Just discovered your blog. LOVE IT! Congratulations!! I'm wondering if you have any old posts about, or could talk about feelings of resentment and entitlement about food? Those are my huge stumbling blocks. After much soul searching, I realized to my horror, that deep down I honestly belive that somehow it is my God given right to eat huge portions of whatever I want! If that is modified in any way–such as weight watchers–watch out!! Mind you, my head doesn't believe this–but my heart does. At 130 lbs you don't get many points–how did you manage to stick with it without hating the program? How do you say goodbye to the joy of eating whatever you want? Thanks for the help!
    God Bless,

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